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consider, that though we are unworthy for whom any thing should be done, yet Christ is worthy: And I may add, that in appointing him to be our Intercessor, God hath declared his own favourable regard to us, and we may comfortably conclude, that The Father himself loveth us*. Yet this love is manifested, as in a very gracious, so also in a very humbling way. This token of divine displeasure against sin is yet upon us, that we are not allowed to draw near to him in our own name, or to expect the least favour for our own sake ; but he still keeps us at an humble distance, nor will he permit us to see his face, unless our elder brother be with us+: And as he treated Eliphaz and his companions, saying, My wrath is kindled against you; take now an offering, and go to my servant Job, and he shall pray for you, and him will I accept; lest I deal with you after your folly: Thus God refuses to look on the best of our offerings, if they do not pass through another more acceptable hand. How awful a reflection, and how wise a provision, to promote that humility, which so well becomes pardoned rebels, before the only injured Majesty of heaven! This is, as he expresses it by Ezekiel§, That we may remember our way, and be confounded, and never open our mouths any more, because of our shame, even when he is pacified towards us for all that we have done.
Lastly, How powerfully should this comfortable doctrine operate on our minds, to promote our love to this great Intercessor, and our zeal for his honour and glory!
"Blessed Lord," should each of us say, "dost thou remember such a worthless worm amidst all thine honour and joy above, and shall not I remember thee, the King of glory? Where should my heart be but with thee? On what should I Set my affections, but on those things which are above, where thou sittest at the right-hand of God? My righteousness, and my strength, mine advocate, and my guardian! Shall I be unmindful of thee? While thou art pleading my cause in heaven, shall I not be joyfully willing to plead thy sacred and honourable cause on earth? Rather, much rather, may I forget the powers of reason, and lose the faculty of speech, than neglect to use them for thee: Rather may my Tongue cleave
*John xvi. 27.
† Gen. xliii. 5.
Job xlii. 7,8.
to the roof of my mouth, than it should be ashamed, or afraid, to vindicate thy gospel, though I stood alone in a croud of insulting blasphemning enemies, and though they added cruelty and terror to their impieties. So mayest thou Confess me before thy Father and the holy angels, in the last solemn day, as I determine that I will confess thee now†, though this crooked and perverse generation should grow still more degenerate than it is."
Christians, if we have not such sentiments and resolutions as these, I fear we have no title to any of the comforts of Christ's intercession, and shall have no share in its invaluable blessings.
POWER AND GRACE OF CHRIST.
Coming to God by Christ, the Character of those that shall be saved.
Heb. vii. 25.—Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost, that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make Intercession for them.
WHEN the Psalmist had been celebrating the Majesty of
God, as the almighty creator and possessor of all, he breaks out into this most natural, and important enquiry, Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? and who shall stand in his holy place*? And methinks, christians, when we have been hearing of the boundless power of Christ to save, and of the prevalency of that intercession which he ever lives to make, we should immediately cry out, "Who are the happy souls, in whose rescue this almighty arm shall be employed, and whose cause this gracious intercessor will undertake always to plead?" The text answers the question in a very edifying and satisfactory manner, though in few words; They are such as come unto God by him.
You know that from this scripture I have already considered,
I. What we are to understand by Christ's being able to save to the uttermost.
II. What evidences we have, that he is really so.
III. I have considered the particular argument for it, which the apostle here draws, from his ever living to make intercession.
It only remains, that I now open,
IV. The character of the persons, who are encouraged to expect a share in this salvation; they are such as come unto God by him.
Now before I proceed to the more particular discussion of
Psal. xxiv. 3.
these words, you must give me leave to observe, that they seem in their primary and strictest sense to signify "an approach to God in the solemnities of religious worship, in the name of Christ, as the great intercessor."
As when the Jewish people were honoured with the abode of the Shekinah, the visible token of the divine presence, they did in their highest religious solemnities approach to that, surrounding with their sacrifices, and their prayers, the tabernacle or temple, where it held its residence; hence it seems to have come to pass, that the phrases of coming to God, coming into his presence, and drawing near to him, were often used to express the acts of divine worship*. And as the priests were admitted to come nearer to the ark, on which this visible glory usually rested, than others even of that holy nation; they are with peculiar propriety spoken of, as drawing near to Godt. We may also add, that forasmuch as once a year the high-priest went into the holy of holies, in the name of the whole congregation, with the blood of victims offered to expiate their sins; they might properly, at that solemn season, be said to come unto God by him. And the connection of these words, as I have largely shewn, does most evidently imply an allusion to these Jewish rites, and a regard to Christ as the great High-priest of our profession.
But it would be very imprudent, and unsafe, to leave the matter thus generally explained. Salvation is here promised, to all that come unto God by Christ; as it elsewhere is, to all that call on the name of the Lord. Yet most certain it is, from the whole tenor of scripture, that there are multitudes who call on his name, and transmit their petitions to God in a professed dependance on his mediation and intercession, whose persons and services God will reject with abhorrence; who shall see salvation only from afar, and never be permitted to taste of it. And therefore it is manifest, that, to make the scripture consistent with itself, these phrases, when connected in such a manner, must be taken in a much larger extent, as comprehending all that, by which the acceptable worshipper, and the true believer, is distinguished from the hypocritical professor who draws near to God only to dishonour him, and to bring on himself aggravated guilt and condemnation.
And by consequence, coming to God, as the phrase is here
Numb. vii. 19. Psal. lxv. 2. lxxiii. 28. xcv. 2. c. 2.
Numb. xvi. 5.
Heb. vii. 19. Exod. xix. 22. Lev. x. 3.
Isa. xxix. 13. lviii. 2. Ezek. xl. 46. xliv. 13.
used, must signify in the general, " applying ourselves with the greatest seriousness to our important business with him ;" as such expressions often signify, when they are put for the whole of religion*: And coming through Christ must imply "such humble and faithful regards to him as the great Mediator, such a cordial acceptance of him, such a cheerful dependance upon him," as is so often in the New Testament expressed by that faith in him, to which the promises of eternal salvation are made, and to which they are limited.
But since it is a matter of so great moment, and a matter in which it is to be feared so many are deceiving their own souls, give me leave to descend into some particulars of explication. And let me intreat your diligent attention, and beseech you, as you dread the ruin of the Hypocrites in Zion, that you enter seriously into your own hearts, and Judge yourselves, as persons that expect shortly to be judged of the Lordt. Oh that through the sanctifying, the quickening, and the witnessing influences of the holy Spirit, we might see the characters which are now to be drawn, more and more evidently agreeing to ourselves!
The believer you see is here described, as coming to God,――and as coming to him through Christ.
I. The believer is described, as one that comes to God." This evidently implies,a firm persuasion of his being and attributes, a deep conviction that it is our highest interest to secure his favour,- -a readiness to renounce whatever can come in competition with it,a cheerful and resolute subjection to his service, and a care to keep up a continual correspondence with him, and to live as in a state of nearness to
1. Coming to God evidently implies, " a firm belief of his being and perfections."
This the apostle asserts in express words, which carry their own evidence along with them: He that cometh unto God, must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him ‡. And indeed the latter is as necessary as the former; for merely to believe a first cause of almighty power and consummate skill, as some pretend to do, without any sense of his providence, government and goodness, is, with regard to all the purposes of practical religion, as vain and as pernicious as atheism itself.
Psal. lxv. 4. Jer. xxx. 21, 22. Jam. iv. 8.
+1 Cor. xi. 51. + Heb. xi. 6.